But U.S. officials acknowledged that this is one of the questions being asked as they debate the administration’s response to what White House press secretary Josh Earnest described as Russia’s “indiscriminate military operations against the Syrian opposition”. “But it must be verified and checked”.
Reacting to criticism that it is targeting opponents of the Syrian government, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted on Thursday that Russia’s airstrikes in Syria are targeting not only Islamic State militants but also other groups.
The Kremlin has denied reports that its strikes have killed at least 36 civilians, including five children.
The source added that in addition to the naval Russian base in Syria’s Tartus city and the airbase that is hosting the Russian warplanes in Latakia’s airport of Basel al-Assad, a third base is being prepared in central Syria.
“We can’t leave it to French, Australian and American aircraft to keep our own British streets safe”, he said. This would be the first strike in an area widely recognised as being under the control of Islamic State (IS).
In a comment clearly aimed at the coalition airstrikes, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday that airstrikes “are useless unless they are conducted in cooperation with the Syrian army, the only force in Syria that is combating terrorism”.
Russian jets made their first strikes in Syria on Wednesday, and quickly faced complaints about its targets. Allies in the US-led coalition have called on Russian Federation to immediately cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and to focus on fighting IS militants.
US President Barack Obama warned yesterday that Russia’s military engagement in Syria in support of strongman Bashar Al Assad is a “recipe for disaster”, though Washington could still work with Moscow on reducing tensions.
Ahead of the talks, a Putin ally and senior lawmaker said the campaign of Russian air strikes will last for three to four months and will increase in intensity.
“They talk about the rebels and the free Syria, but this has happened to us over the years”, he said.
Russian officials noted that many of their early strikes hit ISIS troops and command centers in the Homs Province, and rejected claims that the attacks were overwhelmingly against other rebel factions which the United States views more favorably. The Syrian civil war, which has intensified as of late, is spilling over to global and regional levels, with several countries divided on the actions they are taking with each side.